Fans of last year’s spooky slow burn His House should be interested in Keith Thomas’ The Vigil as well, a bottled horror that has even more paranoid, claustrophobic dread also set against cultural values.
Dave Davis stars as Yakov, a Brooklynite who remains rooted in his Judaism but has fallen just far enough from his cultural roots. Late one evening, he’s contacted by his Orthodox Jewish cousin Reb (Menashe’s Menace Lustig) who practically begs Yakov to take part in a traditional vigil. Yakov’s plays the role of “shomer”, someone who watches over the body of the deceased before they’re buried – a pivotal role that lends a loyal presence shortly after the passing of someone in the Jewish community. Begrudgingly, Yakov offers his company, but, unbeknownst to him, the eye-opening evening will force him to face unresolved inner conflicts of guilt and fear.
Writer/director Thomas makes great use out of the small apartment the titular vigil is taking place in. Although the space is confined, Thomas is still able to play around with shadows and quick glimpses of the supernatural. The Vigil is essentially a haunted house movie, and Yakov is our avatar. We’re as on edge as he is, constantly double and triple thinking what we may have just seen scurry off-screen. It’s a typical thriller routine, but the staging and timing of these scares and special effects are practically perfect.
Thomas raises the stakes of the story and its primary character when The Vigil starts focusing more on Yakov’s personal growth, The filmmaker’s ability to convey these character driven story beats is weaved into the thriller effectively, giving the audience more of a bond with the character. Davis should also receive special acknowledgement for using every moment of screen time to help build this relationship.
The Vigil is the ideal example of a horror-thriller that goes above and beyond its expectations.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie